Calgary chocolatier fined $150K

A judge has ordered Calgary's best known chocolate maker and his wife to pay $150,000 after being found in contempt.
Bernard Callebaut says he's looking to the future now and developing his new company, Papa Chocolat. (CBC)

A judge has ordered Calgary's best known chocolate maker and his wife to pay $150,000 after being found in contempt.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Barbara Romaine ruled Thursday that the Callebauts, Bernard and Francesca, had removed assests from their former company after it was placed in receivership.

In December, an employee found chocolate in a storage container where the Callebaut family said they had stored household goods, said Brian Beck, the president of the company that now owns Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut. He launched an investigation.

"We started finding out about equipment that was missing, specifically the molds used to make chocolates, inventory, packaging, [and] computers."

The judge valued the property removed at $26,000 and further ordered the Callebauts to pay about $74,000 in legal costs. Some of the property has been returned. On top of that, the couple was fined $50,000 for their actions.

Callebaut said he has made some mistakes and has to accept the consequences.

"The judge made a decision and ultimately I have to accept the decision," Callebaut said. "I can stew over it, and stay for weeks and try to fight it ... but ultimately I'm spending a lot of time and energy on negative things."

He said it would be a challenge for him and his wife to pay the fee, but moving his new business forward would help.

Chocolatier launched new business

Callebaut started the company that bears his name in Calgary more than 25 years ago. The business eventually expanded to retail outlets and a network of independent stores.

The high-end chocolate business went into receivership in August of last year, with ATB Financial claiming Callebaut owed close to $4 million.

Receiver Deloitte and Touche recommended the company's assets be sold to a numbered company backed by Beck, a former Callebaut vice-president of operations, and a dealer with three stores in Edmonton.

A judge later rejected Callebaut's attempt to buy the business back. Callebaut launched a new company in December called Papa Chocolat.

"We have already investors lined up, we have a location for manufacturing lined up, we are in negotiations for a retail location ... that's what I have to focus on. My brain is really geared to move forward," Callebaut said.